SA Rugby eyeing return to competitive action by August

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JOHANNESBURG, SOUTH AFRICA - FEBRUARY 15: Andries Coetzee of the Lions scores a try during the Super Rugby match between Emirates Lions and DHL Stormers at Emirates Airline Park on February 15, 2020 in Johannesburg, South Africa. (Photo by Sydney Seshibedi/Gallo Images/Getty Images)
FILE PHOTO: Jean-Luc du Plessis of the Stormers with possession during the Super Rugby match between Emirates Lions and DHL Stormers at Emirates Airline Park in Johannesburg, South Africa. (Photo by Sydney Seshibedi/Gallo Images/Getty Images)

South African rugby is targeting a resumption of competitive action in August, if not earlier, according to SA Rugby CEO Jurie Roux who said that the union was in negotiations with the government on return-to-train protocols.

Contact and non-contact sports in South Africa have been allowed to resume training since lockdown level 3 began at the start of June. Contact sports, such as football and rugby, however, are unable to play matches at this level.

“We believe we have a comprehensive and scientifically rigorous set of protocols to minimise the risk of transmission and allow a return to competitive rugby within the next two months,” Roux said.

“We have planned meticulously for the moment and know we have the infrastructure and capacity within our professional playing environment to safely deliver those protocols.”

On March 18, SA Rugby announced the suspension of all rugby activities due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The union has since created a return-to-play manual and presented it to the nations’ Department of Sport, Arts and Culture, Roux said.

Roux expressed optimism that the both Super Rugby and the Currie Cup, South Africa’s premier domestic rugby competition, could resume despite a four-month disruption to the calendar.

“Obviously, the international travel ban means Vodacom Super Rugby will undergo a re-design – as it has in New Zealand and Australia – but we are looking forward to its resumption.”

Roux also revealed that there were a number of options planned by SA Rugby for the potential resumption of Test rugby.

“The postponed July tests could still take place here in October; our northern hemisphere tour in November has not been cancelled and the possibility of playing the Castle Lager Rugby Championship in a single venue in ‘a bubble’ has also been workshopped,” he said.

“But as those all remain unconfirmed and reliant on factors outside of our control. But we also have a few other ideas up our sleeve, which we’re quite excited about, and will announce if and when they become necessary.”

South Africa is also in discussions with the sport’s world governing body, World Rugby, on an amendment of the global calendar as the prevailing situation created a need to find solutions.

“There are some very interesting ideas being discussed and SA Rugby would be keen to see this pandemic have some positive spin-offs in terms of realignment.

“We are working closely with our SANZAAR partners on what that might look like, but our current position is that we are well placed to head in any direction and open to all ideas. Like our partners, we have ruled nothing out.”

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